Aviation is a vital aspect of today’s life and the global economy. It enables people to connect with the other side of the planet and products to reach their destination fast. With over 1.6 billion people using airlines worldwide, the air transport industry supports 11.3 million direct jobs, 76.4 million indirect jobs and is integral to economic development and security. However, aviation also has environmental impacts like noise pollution and atmospheric emissions.
The Growth of Aviation and its Emissions
The aviation sector has seen a significant growth in recent decades. This growth is driven by rising demand for air travel for passengers and freight transportation. With the global economy growing and prosperity increasing, it is expected that air travel demand will continue to overgrow in the future, as it offers speed, convenience, and cost efficiency for long-distance travel. This growth will also result in a corresponding increase in aviation emissions, leading to growing concerns about their impact. The aviation fleet is foreseen to expand, and airports will continue to be developed and improved in response to the positive changes in global economies.
The Significance of Aviation Emissions in Climate Change
The emission of pollutants from aircraft, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor (H2O), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of sulfur (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates, and other trace compounds, are contributing to the growing global concern about climate change. Approximately 90% of aviation emissions are generated at higher altitudes, contributing to the formation of greenhouse gases, while the remaining 10% come from ground-level operations such as landing and takeoff. Contrails formed by water in aircraft engine exhaust may also contribute to the greenhouse effect.
Scientists are investigating the potential impact of contrails on the environment. According to a study, greenhouse gas emissions, mainly CO2 and NOx, are of primary concern regarding aviation. The aviation sector is estimated to account for around 3% of total greenhouse emissions from fossil fuel combustion, with the majority coming from commercial aviation globally. It is projected that greenhouse gas emissions from aviation will continue to grow and increase by 60% by 2025.
Initiatives and Efforts in Reducing Emissions
Numerous initiatives are underway to reduce emissions in the aviation sector in the coming years. These efforts include programs at airports aimed at reducing emissions from ground support equipment and other vehicles through alternative fuels, hybrid-electric vehicles, and other low-emission technologies. Additionally, the design and operation of the air transport infrastructure inherently contribute to reducing environmental impact. The aviation sector has also seen recent improvements in system efficiency, such as better real-time meteorological information and yield management tools, which have allowed for optimized flight planning and increased load factors. Operating procedures can also directly or indirectly impact aircraft emissions. Airlines enforce alternative strategies and best practices to save fuel and reduce emissions from the atmosphere, such as decreasing engine power during liftoff and using ground power instead of the auxiliary turbine. Executing new technologies in air traffic management is also predicted to enhance efficiency and downsize emissions in and around airports with projects like Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) or the Single European Sky for more efficient traffic control.
The aviation industry has constantly improved its environmental performance, with fuel economy being a key indicator. Engine efficiency and regulatory frameworks were established to control emissions with an overall fleet efficiency around 80% better than 50 years ago. Efforts to optimize the procedure of the aviation network have positively impacted the environment. A roadmap by governments and policymakers was created for further mitigating aviation’s environmental effects, which involves working with industry partners, advancing the aviation system’s performance, and evaluating various strategies for lowering emissions. Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) aim to mitigate the consequence of aviation emissions on the environment.
CORSIA initial phase is a voluntary agreement between countries under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to offset emissions from international flights by funding sustainable development projects. The EU ETS is a compulsory emissions trading system that covers all airlines operating within the European Union and limits the total CO2 emissions. Both CORSIA and EU ETS seek to diminish emissions from the aviation sector by promoting more efficient processes and the development of alternative fuels and low-emission technologies. The foremost goal is to guarantee that aviation continues delivering economic and social benefits while minimizing its negative environmental impact.
Aither offers services to the aviation industry to comply with regulations such as the EU ETS and CORSIA. Our tools help our clients monitor and manage their emissions and access carbon offsets and other mitigation solutions. We navigate the complexities of regulations and provide transparency and verification of market data. With our help, airlines can ensure they comply while also taking proactive steps to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the goal of a more sustainable aviation industry.